The result noobdy wanted?
I am guessing that this was the result that nobody, from either club, wanted, as Stockport County came from behind to battle out a 1-1 draw against promotion hot shots Brackley Town yesterday at Edgeley Park.
This set up a repeat on Tuesday in Northamptonshire and by that time we will have weather conditions fit to make a vicar swear to cope with if Michael Fish`s successors are to be believed.
Those looking for a football classic, would have been disappointed yesterday, it was more hard grind than pulsating excitement, with both sides having their moments….and chances…..but never really, in either case, quite having the necessary fire power to put the tie to bed.
Brackley must have thought that they were set fair , when they took the lead on 69 minutes via a goal from Lee Ndlovu, but it took a determined County side just 4 minutes to equalise as Jimmy Ball applied the required finish after an Oswell header had rattled the cross bar.
A fair result?
On the balance of play………… probably!
Both teams struggled to make substantial headway against obdurate defences- Brackley having the better of the first 45 minutes, although without showing us too much of the stuff that has seen them lose only one game in 17 prior to this match. County deserve credit for this ………for not conceding in this period, and battling back in the second half.
There was a better balance about the eleven that JG put out on this occasion, with Oswell leading the line and Ball back in midfield. We just need to ignite those fuses up front, and we will be quids in!
Back at 3 o`clock it was as cold as it could be as the game got underway with the visitors straight onto the attack forcing a series of corners that tested County`s resolve, particularly that of Hinchliffe, who had to punch out under pressure, Duxbury finally ending the pressure by clearing his lines as Brackley forwards queued for a pot at goal.
The best chance in the opening 5 minutes fell to James Armson, who is usually Town`s liveliest operator, but on this occasion, having been set up by the diminutive Ellis Myles, Armson dragged a poor effort wide.
I was more than slightly annoyed by the fact that Myles had been allowed to supply the pass with the ball a foot or so behind the touchline, but it did not result in a goal so I perhaps needed to cool it somewhat.
County meanwhile were struggling and the first 5 minutes saw them hardly get a kick, until 7 minutes in when M.O.M Darren Stephenson surged clear making it to the by-line before being blocked by Luke Graham. The corner had potential, but despite a brief melee in front of Danny Lewis`s goal, the keeper emerged with the ball to applause from the decent sized away following.
Ball did well not long after ,breaking up an embryonic move just inside the County half , enabling Stephenson and Warburton to push Brackley back for a time. A corner resulted, but with 12 minutes gone, Lewis in the visitors goal still had not been troubled.
To be fair though….neither had Hinchliffe, a point emphasised when Aaron Williams , another operator who normally gives opponents short shrift, managed to shoot tamely into the County keeper`s arms having been set up by Adam Walker after 16 minutes.
Walker was looking lively at that juncture, and combining closely with Armson gnawed away at County`s back line, as a hyena would a tasty haul of steaming entrails. Smalley`s intervention ensured there was no feast to be had though.
County opened up a touch around the 20 minute mark- Thomas showing first signs with a run and cross that at last gave Lewis something to do.
Duxbury joined in with a neat dribble that took him into the box, where his progress abruptly halted. Both Duxbury and Warburton were unlucky as County strove to get a shot in, only to find the Brackley cover seemingly impenetrable.
County were doing better now, arriving first to the ball a time or two ,something that they previously had difficulty in doing.
Thomas again did well inducing a foul as he darted towards the edge of the box. Stephenson`s shot from the free kick was charged down, only for disappointment to reign again as the referee spotted a County foul to give their opponents some welcome relief in the form of a free kick.
Brackley took the game to County next, and Smalley had to work hard to subdue Ndlovu as he ran at the blues down the right. Armson followed suit and found his range alarmingly, his shot needing a save from Hinchliffe to keep it out.
This was a worrying time as Brackley were showing no sign at all of relaxing the pressure, and might ….no…should have taken the lead just 6 minutes from the break, as Glenn Walker`s cross reached the Town number nine smack in front with the goal gaping. It required a quick reaction…..one wasn`t forthcoming and County breathed easier again as Ndlovu failed to make contact with the ball!!
That was poor from Brackley and more of the same followed, as again Walker was provider, his cross being laid back nicely to Armson by Myles. Nine times out of ten perhaps Armson would have at least tested Hinchliffe, but this was the tenth, and……… leaning back…he lifted a poor effort into the Cheadle End.
There was time for Duxbury to torment Brackley some more….for the Pop Side liner to ruin a County raid with his flag…….for Ball`s after shave to see County penalised with a free kick that Gudger reached but put well wide, and for Stopforth to come as close as anyone in blue with a shot that carried the bar by a foot or so….before the whistle went for half time, and a go at that flask in my bag!
County opened brightly in the second half with Duxbury and Warburton to the fore, but it was Thomas who looked the likeliest to forge an opening as he darted clear down the right. Alas….his progress was cut short by Gudger`s tackle from behind that got no more than a word from referee Joe Johnson. County did get a free kick, but this was wasted by Duxbury , so the miscreant had prospered regrettably.
Another foul, Graham on Oswell, five minutes later again offered County a chance via the subsequent free kick, and this time they made a better fist of it, Stephenson forcing a corner from it, that saw Lewis in action beating a drive from Duxbury out with the blues scenting opportunity.
Both sides took turns in almost snatching the opener… Brackley via Armson and Williams, and County through Stephenson and Warburton whose snap shot very nearly sneaked in with Lewis beaten.
That was encouraging from County, and more followed as an O`Halloran effort was headed on by Oswell- missing out by inches!
The next action was more stress inducing as a Brackley corner saw Hinchliffe straining to keep the ball out.
That was close, but so was Oswell not long after being inches away from reaching the ball in the box with Lewis compromised.
Turner was now on for Thomas but it was Brackley who were celebrating as, 5 minutes later, Myles probing ball forced County to concede a corner. The corner was well directed to Gudger who headed the ball on for Ndlovu to hit the net from close in.
That was really disappointing, but County did not dwell on their ill fortune but hit back - Warburton irritatingly flagged offside after Stephenson had broke clear.
County had the bit between their gnashers now , and within 4 minutes of going 1 down..they equalised! Cowan and Turner started the move, the latter feeding the former who then pinged over a cross. It was bound for Oswell but his header thudded into the cross bar before coming back into play, where Jimmy Ball latched onto it heading home in lethal fashion.
Brackley were having to defend now, and they were not averse to resorting to the odd foul here and there especially with Stephenson and Ball on their case. But having got a free kick, for a foul on Stephenson, the delivery from same was really poor from Warburton and any chance was gone.
To avoid a replay, we really did need to sort the set pieces out.
That said, maybe the outfield play would sort it for us, certainly it was beginning to shape up nicely now as Turner went close after much good work from Cowan, Warburton and Oswell. A corner came from that effort, then another as Stephenson turned his marker inside out in the box.
From this one County went as close as they would to getting another as a Stephenson ball was headed on towards goal where Smalley lurked, but he crashed to earth when going for the ball. I mentally pointed to the spot, but Mr Johnson was not interested and again the chance was gone.
The County pressure continued, but with 5 minutes left Brackley gave their supporters hope by working the ball up the park where Myles engineered a corner. This again went straight to Gudger but his header came back out off the bar- a handball by Ndlovu allowing County to breath easily again.
Normal time ended with County pressing for that decisive second goal with Cowan and Duxbury driving them on down the flanks, but Oswell was out of luck again just beaten to Cowan`s final ball by Graham.
Into added time it was still anyone`s game…County attacking…then Brackley, and they sneaked a corner as well. County defended this well, but Warburton`s break from deep, as promising as it looked, was halted by Mr Johnson who brought play back for a Brackley free kick( smack in front and almost on the edge of the box- scoreable in fact!
The kick hit the wall however and that was that…..and a drafty Tuesday at St James Park lashed by Siberian Winds and shed loads of snow beckoned.
I cannot wait!
The Flyer leaves the Fingerpost at 15.00 and picks up at Mercian Way 15.15( price to be confirmed). Ring Lou on 07896 536757 if interested, but not after 7.30 pm please.
We`ll win that one….believe!
[ Pictures? Yeah... we got 'em here! ]
Stockport County line up
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Smalley, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Ball, Stopforth, Thomas( Turner 65), Oswell, Warburton, Stephenson.
Subs not used: Ormson, Clarke, Winter, Dixon.
Brackley Town line up
Lewis, Miles, Gudger, Byrne, Graham, Dean, Walker,Ndlovu, Armson, Williams( Lowe 87), Walker.
Subs not used: Streete, Brown, Diggin, Lucas.
Attendance : 2213